tv [untitled] August 8, 2010 9:30pm-10:00pm PST
>> welcome to our town hall forum. i am the co-host of open hope" crosscurrent." i am joined by my colleague also from kalw. we would like to welcome you on behalf of the society of professional journalists for what promises to be a bi discussion about what is going on in journalism today. what we want to talk about are the rapid changes going on right now in journalism with a convergence of new technology, new media, and a weak economy. all that has basically forced changes in the way that we gather the news, in the way that we deliver the news, in the way that we received the news. we have with us a stellar panel
of top thinkers in the fields of media, education, finance, and government represented, but we also wanted to encourage an audience to participate and drive to a's discussion. so you are asked to ask discussions -- questions. if you would like to ask questions, please move toward the middle aisle. as tom mentioned also, our conversation will be divided into five parts. first, we will talk about the quality of reporting in the past few years. we will also talk about ways to sustain quality journalism today and in the upcoming years. next we will move on to shielding journalism from financial pressures from advertisers, foundations, and the government. how to encourage cultural
diversity in the media is also a topic we want to talk about. constitutional protection at a time when the very definition of the journalist is changing. who is a journalist? that is a key question we can ask today. let's go to sandeep to who we have today. >> we have a stellar panel. you're not kidding. let me begin to my immediate left. barry parr is the publisher of "cosigner.com" as well as one of the first on-line newspapers. denise why there is the chair of the journalism department at san francisco state university, where 600 students are studying journalism. next to her is mark adkins, the
president of the "san francisco chronicle." next to him is dr. xena ibrahim. lisa frazier is the publisher of "bay area citizens." paul connelly is the senior vice president of the tcc group and he manages the challenge fund for journalism, one of the largest sources of grants for journalism. now on the back row, crank aaron is the senior director of the free press, a group working to increase government funding for the media. frank frankle is a journalism professor at stanford university. next to him is ron dellens, the
mayor of oakland. he has served 14 houseyears. next to him is a former writer and publisher. he and embed the publisher. next to him is david calloway, editor in chief of marketwatch.com. next to him, sandy close, the director of new american media. she is also my executive editor and i get to hold the microphone up to her. let's begin the discussion. >> thank you. let's start with a question that is on many people's mind. with cutbacks and technology
shifts, what has that done to the quality of news, barry parr? >> when i worked at the "mercury news" back in the 1990's, we were trying to compete with the paper. i am here to stay mission accomplished. it has been a tough 10, 20 years. i have to tell you, some of the greatest innovation and highest quality work is coming from the ground up. if you look back over the last year, one of the most crucial issues that has concerned in this country, health care reform, we really have to say the traditional media let the country down. it has been a significant
problem in the country. in many ways, it is not perfect, it is never going to be perfect, but on the other hand, we have a lot of small innovators out there that are thinking -- changing the way that we think about information. i have been running a small website for about six years. the thing that i am finding is technology has shifted under me as well. i have to think hard about how i have to keep up with social media, how you control the rumors, help people establish fiction from fact. >> thank you. denise wagner, what do you tell your students -- i think you oversee 600? 523 journalism students at san
francisco state. so how do you talk these days about the quality of the news? >> overall, the quality is quite spotty. there has been some stellar news stories coming from traditional, legacy media organizations, but you are also getting some really interesting coverage from some start-ups. talking points memo, a blog that does a lot of journalism. propublica doesn't allow as well. there is not any one place you can go to get stellar reporting. it comes from a lot of different places. the ecosystem itself has changed. we have citizen journalists, private-public partnerships,
legacy media, start-ups. it is an uneven thing right now. >> how do you define who the journalists are in your class? >> that is an interesting question. many of my students think "the daily show" is news. while "the daily show" provides interesting insight, provide satire and parody of news, it is clear there is some element of news there. what is tricky is how you help students define where to get quality information about what is happening in their community. that is how i try to define it. the lines are too blurred to say that is journalism, that is not journalism. what i am most interested in is
educating students to develop a critical awareness and thinking ability to parse out what is good information and what is not. >> moving on to mark adkins of the "san francisco chronicle." we had a conversation about the chronicle. it was threatening to close, saying it was losing $1 million a week. you have made massive cuts since then. how has that affected the quality of your coverage? >> one of the thing that is exciting is that people are so passionate about news, about the chronicle, a number of people we employ. one area where we trimmed a lot of jobs in a lot of different
areas of the operation, including the news room, and it is not always about the quantity of people you employ of the quality of the product in the information you put on the pages day in, day out. that is the most important thing. is the quality there on a daily basis? i look back over the last couple of years. i have only been here about a year-and-a-half, but i have been very familiar with the chronicle. i might be biased, but i think is better now than it was a few years ago. we are doing that on a more efficient basis then we did before. i do not think it is always about the tonnage, but it is about the quality. i think we are doing a great job with the resources we have today. >> you are in the broadcast
field. you teach radio and television at san francisco state. as well, major cutbacks in the broadcasting industry. how has that affected coverage? >> it is interesting. i'm going to answer the question, but i want to go back to what you started with. a changing landscape in which we have higher technology and lower budgets. i think that this means for students graduating with degrees in radio and television is a job opportunity. because a lot of radio and tv stations have cut back dramatically, they are hiring younger talent. that is good for young people on the one hand. >> not so good for people our age. >> no, unfortunately.
i think we are seeing that shift in generations happening rapidly. there are quite a few -- both radio and tv -- i am thinking about two local radio stations who i will not name who are paying interest to produce news content. -- interns to produce news content. what that means for quality is the big question. i do not feel fully comfortable having a discussion about quality of news without discussing what that means. how do we define quality journalism? i think today we have a much more scattered definition. the huge decline in our own way. previously, we only had three major networks. it was easier to define the "quality journalism." today, it becomes a much more
difficult concept. >> is this something that you discussed in your class is? >> yes, we do. as prof. wagner said, a lot of young people are tuned out. they simply do not care. the news is not relevant to them. i do an exercise in my class called broadcast therapy. how does news make you feel? it is always fascinating to me to read their responses. sometimes it makes them feel sad, helpless, depressed. they complain -- especially when it comes to local news -- a tremendous amount of crime coverage, in addition to coverage that is more commercially-driven. today, i picked up my iphone, click on the ktuv moblile app ad
the top story was that some way now sells breakfast. [laughter] -- subway now sells breakfast. i always have to identify mind of being a critic of the media while at the same time trying to inspire people to go into the field. i think quality journalism is still out there. public broadcasting is really phenomenal. young people do not know what that is. they did not know who jim lehrer was. the quality is being buried under a lot of fluff. >> we covered newspapers and broadcast journalism. lisa frazier, you are testing a new model, the bay citizen,
formally known as the bay area news project. you are a nonprofit startup. what is your annual budget, is it enough to provide coverage, comparable to the chronicle? >> i think the challenge we all have is that this is a difficult problem. no one organization can go forward on their own. it is irrelevant when our budget is -- in five years, we hope it is $12 million. our aspirations is to have 15 journalism editors contest by the end of the year to help fill the gap that we, as a community, are all feeling. the fundamentals for around our model are non-profit, but there are a number of elements that
are important that we are passionate about. first and foremost is the collaboration element. i just talked about why we feel we cannot do this on our own. there are so many great media organizations, that coming together to represent news for the community is important. another element is r and d. we talk about how technology can make us more efficient and effective, the tools that can help a journalist do their job more effectively. we need to bring that to the forefront. this is not just about journalism, but journalism and technology. the last thing i would say is it is going to take hard work. wherever we see it, non-profit, for-profit, we need to trial, innovate, make mistakes, learn from them, get back up, and keep
on going. >> indeed. paul connelly of the tcc group. has foundation funding risen -- did it fall in the recession? what has happened for media coverage? >> foundation funding over the past four years has increased. it has been about $140 million of investment according to do research. we have also seen changes in the type of donor and founder. more individuals, such as wealthy donors starting propublica. there is another website, spotus, which collects donations
to shed light on journalism. so it is not just the night foundation, mccormick foundation, but founders who are interested in democracy, civic engagement, such as open society institute, community foundations. they are supporting a similar project in san diego. so the pool of the founders and donors has expanded. >> some good news on the first row. [laughter] craig aaron, i saw you cringe a little bit when we said the most we support government funding. so what do you support? >> i think the government has a role to play. i do not think they are the only answer. whatever we do, the government
will be part of the answer. we need to end this myth that the government is not already involved. usc just did a study that we spend $1 billion a year in placing public notices and various tax breaks, the public airwaves that bring us our television stations. that is owned by the public. when we dig up our city streets to drop the internet lines, government and policy is involved every step of the way. where i do think we need to start talking seriously about what the government needs to, the only question that matters is who are they going to benefit? for a long time, we have been telling journalists that they have no real role to play. maybe they should not be involved in the political process, but their bosses up in washington, where i live, are asking for all sorts of favors
and handouts that favor a certain model. so what will the models they that will fill in these gaps? if local advertising monopolies are over, we have the rise of the internet, so how are we going to provide the public good journalism? i think one of those answers is through public non-commercial media, and a significant reinvestment in media. we spend $400,000 a year. that is $1.37 for everyone in the room. canada, $20. england, $80. that is how much they spend, and they are the country that are on the top of the list for healthy as democracies. we have to get our priorities straight. to bail out a.i.g., $565 a person. maybe a couple of dollars for public media is a bargain.
>> so speaking of public funding for media, glenn fanrkle, you have been a correspondent for the "washington post" and you have also been based in london. let's take the bbc model. there are funded by a tv license fee that is charged to the public. whoever can get the bbc, pays for the bbc. would something like that work in the u.s.? >> first of all, the bbc has a great model. i also think we need to remember what journalism is. journalism, among other things, has to be independent, somewhat autonomous, had to have the ability to report things that people do not want to see.
whether they are government, organizations, powerful individuals. my second time and the london bureau chief was it during the iraq war. the bbc had some very aggressive coverage which was more critical in the run-up to the iraq war than what was here in the u.s. that was very helpful, journalistically. there was one point, after a correspondent published what i thought was a very helpful piece about the sexing up of the data from the blair administration, error by and saying that it was perfect information that was perfectly frigid purposely issued, the
governor general and chairman of directors at the board of the bbc were forced to resign, a very telling moment meaning the government, even in a country like britain, we are not used to it in the united states and it raises the question of if we're going to a more publicly funded system, how do we make sure that the ultimate -- autonomy of journalists is maintained. >> so, let's stay on that note a little bit. "the oakland tribune" fell on hard times. how you think about the government stepping in? >> i agree with my colleague, but let's talk about how we get there. we have come together tonight
against the backdrop of national discourse that has plundered into racial epithets, homophobia, threats to the lives of elected officials, their families, and my former colleagues being spat upon. that is how the conversation has deteriorated. by starting point is that a thriving democracy is based upon an informed electorate. when the rhetoric is polarized, dangerous, and threatening, filled with polemic, about gamesmanship and not substance, where does the public to go to get a clear, compelling, unencumbered awareness of what is going on? we all have to deal with this. media is a business and subject
to threats, challenges, and the changes of a business. as an elected person charged with the responsibility of governments, there are enormous implications. rupert murdoch made it very clear -- he said, look, i am in the business of ratings. i said to myself -- there it is. written large. not just rupert murdoch, the media. once you are in the ratings business, do are about market share, determining who is in the market, figuring out how the market to them, and in my humble opinion that distorts the news in ways that are frightening and dangerous. we have only scratched the surface of what that means for the democratic process. it has deteriorated and has enormous, real life, on the
ground implications that we have not begun to scratch the surface of. >> you feel that there should be some kind of government regulation of media? >> you did not ask me that question. you asked whether the government should help to finance the media. i said that anything taken out of commercial business that allows us to market the news and engaged in a process that blurs entertainment with fact gathering, that is a frightening thing to me. if the government can step in in the name of the people and take that commercial aspect out of it so that american people in the context of free and open democracy can have an unencumbered factual understanding of what is going on, i support that. final point, the day after president obama signed the health bill that suddenly the newspaper said that here is the checklist of what was in the bill. after the debate.
so, the polls reflected ignorance. drawn up. gamesmanship and partisanship. it was only after the bill that became much more positive. >> pat, you are an investor who invest in media. let me ask you, is this -- given these business challenges facing the media, is it realistic to expect venture capitalists to fund new journalism? >> very much so. the history of media in this country and around the world is one of constant technological change. all of these different new
technologies were supposed to ruin the business. about every 20 years something like this comes along. big media organizations try to cope with it. in their day, cable was new media. radio was new media. satellite was new media. if you look in the bay area where we work, you can see the big technology magazines based here going through the chair -- same changes as the big news bailey's. founded by guys like me, adding voices to the commentary about the world of technology. a forest grows and burns in a cycle, that is a constant. along run history would tell you